“Don’t be the girl who fell. Be the girl who got back up.” – Jenette Stanley
“You have what it takes to be victorious, independent, fearless woman.” -Tyra Banks
“Never apologize for being a powerful woman.”
“A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everybody else.”
“The best protection any woman can have … is courage.”
– Asma with her daughter Chadni (5)
But I never knew my responsibility would ever become my only duty for the next 10 years. That one sweet gesture made me do that. I fell in love with her. Tirelessly I have completed my duty to break her marriage proposal. Her father was a land owner and I was an orphan with a small paternal house on an abandoned land. But seeing me determined and doing my job with patience for a decade, my father-in-law agreed to let her marry me. I am not sorry because I rendered my father-in-law helpless in dealing with his daughter’s desire; I am not at all. I learned from one of my friends that in love, everything is fair!
I was workless when I married my princess. But it was always very hard for me to go away from her to work. It was easier for me to be hungry than to leave her alone. But I had to make the hard decision to come here to work for us. I just never could see her living in hardship. Every time I took farewell from her for going somewhere, I used to return home many times, changing the ticket’s date on the late night. Several nights I bought tickets to go for work but at the last moment I changed the ticket. It was always hard to go away from her. Returning home from the middle of the road was a very normal scene for me and to always find her waiting for me with warm rice because she also knew that I Could not go anywhere leaving her alone. It’s kind of impossible to make you understand that tender love I feel inside in my heart.
It is very hard to live without her. I feel sick and breathless when she is not in front of me. Life is difficult but God is kind enough that he gave me the chance to take her with me to work. I brought her here with me facing a lot of hardship. We have been working here for the last 5 years; we carry stones.
It will sound funny but it’s true. When she stays close to me I can work double and earn double. I feel stronger, alive and energetic when she is with me. When I see a single smile on her face everything seems okay. For the last year we have been selling eggs after work in the evening for a little extra money.
I am waiting for her arrival from our village every day now. She went there last month to prepare rooms for 5 families. Those families lost their houses and everything in the river erosion last year and took shelter in our place. Her parents are among them and are now living in our small hut. So we were planning to make rooms for them with our savings and last year we have been gathering money for making shelter for all of them. This whole month I am feeling lifeless without her but happy for our good deeds. Everyone used to say, “Love runs through the windows in poverty, but I think, “if the love is real than poverty runs through the windows!’’_ Mokter Ali
Heroes are not born but they become heroes by their acts and deeds. A Hero is someone to whom you look up to when you are in trouble; someone who always bails you out of your troubles with a smiling face. There are still some good people left in this world who fill this planet with goodness, optimism and hope; people who make this world a better place to live in. Anybody can be a hero. Someone who helps an old lady or a small child cross a busy road or someone who earns coins for the sake of their mother’s medicines or someone who labours hard for his daughter’s food and education are also all heroes.
Yes, I am telling you about ‘The heroes of our time’; the heroes of our everyday lives and their journeys helping us with every drop of their blood and sweat in order to make our daily lives a little easier. Most are people who are performing acts of kindness or helping others and expecting nothing in return. Many have known defeat, suffering, and struggling yet they possess beautiful stories in their hearts; stories which are worthy enough to share with the world. Abdul Razzak, Fruk Mia, and Nurun Nabi are ordinary rickshaw pullers whose stories touched everyone’s heart. Their kind and heroic acts made them ‘heroes of our time’.
Here, I am sharing 10 real life stories of ‘Rickshaw pullers’ that have become the inspiration for thousands of people all over the world.
Featured first on my Facebook page: GMB Akash
It is very hard to drive a rickshaw with just my one arm. But I can’t stand to see my family in hunger and I want to continue my children’s education. I can’t manage to drive more than 4 to 5 hours each day with one hand. I can only save very little after paying the rent for my rickshaw. Sometimes I have so much pain because of trying to balance the rickshaw single-handedly!
Just 12 days before the accident that took my arm, I came from Sherpur to Dhaka to earn my dream. I left my two children and my wife Kohinur at our village. It was Monday night and it was scorching hot even during the middle of the night. There was not a single leaf moving. I was sleeping in my rickshaw van after an entire day’s work. It was around 2 am and suddenly a loaded vegetable truck smashed into my van and my left arm. After that I can’t remember anything for the next 25 days. I heard that the butchers from the closest market took me to hospital. They paid for my operations! My wife had to sell her earrings, the only gold jewelry she had as well as the two cows we bought with our 3 years of savings.
When I came back from hospital, my only fear was how to feed my children. I am so grateful to God that he saved one of my arms and did not let me end up begging. God gave me courage to continue doing hard work and pulling this rickshaw._Deloyar Hossain (36)
It became dark suddenly and started raining heavily with strong winds and lightning ! Everyone was running here and there for shelter and searching transportation. I saw an old lady almost soaked with rain requesting rikshaw pullers to take her, telling them she had no money but she needed to go to Sadarghat. Everybody told her rudely to go away. Nobody was interested in taking her in their vehicles without money. Seeing that, I told her to come to my rikshaw. I took her and pulled her to Sadarghat. After arriving there she started crying. She said, “I heard my grandson is severely sick but I have no money at this moment to pay for your rikshaw ride. You saw how I was requesting a ride from everyone but nobody agreed to take me without money. I don’t know how to repay your kindness!”
Every day I help at least one person who has no money but needs to go to some place. Every night I give a ride to some disabled beggar to their home for free. These are the beggars who have nobody and who are very poor. I never say no and I never take money from them.
I don’t take money from people who are in a critical situation because one night my daughter, Fatema, was very sick and I had no money at that moment. At that time I used to work as a day labourer. I asked many rikshaw pullers and taxi drivers to take me to the hospital but nobody helped me. Nobody gave us a ride because I had no money. Covered only with a polythene sheet I walked 15 km to the hospital alone holding my 5-year-old daughter during that rainy, windy, dark night. That night walking all the way I was just thinking one thing: that I will at least help one person everyday who is helpless like me.
After that incident I started riding rikshaw and I never say no to anybody who has no money. After my work every night till midnight, I search for people who need help. I don’t know that my small effort will help people or not but I know that at least they will not feel helpless for that particular moment _Faruk
It always felt bizarre to me when my mother sent me to go to door to door asking for salt, chili, onion every day. It was almost impossible for us to cook without collecting spices from neighbors. Believe me, when I used to ask them for salt sometimes, from their looks it felt like I was asking for their heart or kidneys. Why shouldn’t they react? They were also poor and they knew that I had no ability to return their salt and chili that I was taking from them almost every day.
My mother is really old now. She is having a lot of physical problems. I drive a rickshaw the entire day so that I can manage to send her 4-5 thousand taka in money every month for her medicine and food. Between my jobs I try to pray for my mother 5 times every day. I never skip my prayers to God for my mother. My father died and left me along with my four other sisters when we were very young. I have been working the last 20 years for my family. I used to make only 15 taka a day when I was merely 9. I wished to grow up every day. I wanted to grow up in order to earn more money for my family. I have given marriages to my two elder sisters and my two younger sisters are going to school. I wake up every day at dawn for morning prayers and it helps me to drive the rickshaw for some extra hours and with that extra money I try to help with my sisters’ education. I could not go to school but I am trying my best to fulfill their own expectations for reading and studying as much they want. For that I can work every day some more hours.
I have nothing without my mother. My mother is everything to me. I visited my mother last month and took her a green saree. She loves wearing the color green. She never told me she loves green. But from the very beginning I have been seeing her wearing green sarees. You can’t imagine how happy she was seeing that saree. Her condition is not good at all. I don’t want to lose her too. She is the only umbrella over our heads. I always pray to God to please take me before her death because I might not bear the pain of losing her. – Nurun Nabi 30.
Last year I had a strange passenger in my rickshaw who was very worried about something. He was roaming around from one location to another in my rickshaw like a distraught and insane man for almost two hours. I was very afraid to ask him what the problem was that he is going through? I am a poor uneducated man and he was in a very bad mood. Finally, I discovered when he started to talk on his phone that his wife was in very critical condition in the emergency room. She needed the group type A- blood as soon as possible, otherwise it would be very difficult to save her life. After some time when he dropped his phone, with hesitation I softly asked him, “Baba, would you mind if I ask you to take my blood? I tested my blood last year for an illness and I am aware that I have the same blood type A- that you need for your wife. I am a very honest person with no bad habits and I pray 5 times a day. My only problem is that I am a poor man. Do you have problems taking the blood of a poor person and would you let me give my blood to your wife?” That man, whom I was feeling very afraid of asking a minute ago, started sobbing uncontrollably holding me closely. He hugged me so tightly that I could feel how broken he was at that moment.
I gave my blood at the emergency room and it took 2 hours for everything. But during those two hours I felt like a very special person to everyone as well as to myself; something I had never felt before. That man didn’t ask me if he could give me money because he didn’t want to buy my blood; rather he asked me if he could call me ‘Father’. I never felt so precious and valuable before that moment. Giving my blood that day changed my view of seeing my life as a poor inferior man. I don’t feel poor anymore knowing that I have the same blood to save a rich person’s life_ Abdul Razzak
Poor people like me have no rest in their life; no retirement. Our lives are miserable. We have to work even just before going to the graveyard. If I will not work even one day my whole family have to suffer for that whole day. I am 65 years old and for me now riding rickshaw during this heavy rain is very difficult work. Sometimes my whole body gets wet even though I wear a plastic coat. At those times I feel so cold that I can’t breathe nor even stand-up. When it’s raining with heavy winds then it’s even more difficult for me to pull the rickshaw because I need a lot more energy to drag the rickshaw through the wind. My plastic coat protects some parts of my body but my face, hands and feet get wet all the time. My hands and feet get so severally cold that they feel bloodless and numb.
I don’t stop riding rickshaw during the rain because at that time some passengers give me extra money. Yesterday, a father was looking for a rickshaw with his daughter for going to school for a while. There was no rickshaw on the street because it was raining heavily. I was sitting in a tea stall’s shed beside the stove to warm myself up. I was very tired and cold. I was not able to ride anymore that morning after getting wet from the early morning rides. But when I saw they are getting wet and waiting for a long time, I could not stop myself even if I was already so cold and weak. I took them to school and the father and daughter were so grateful to me. When I reached the front of the school, the girl took a 500 taka note from her father and gave it to me and told me dadu ( grand father ) buy something for yourself. I took iftar and bazar for my family with that money.
During this Ramadan I still need to work. And I cannot be fasting. I was fasting during the first Ramadan. But my wife and two daughters never miss their fasting nor prayers. If I will fast I will not be able to work and earn for their Sehery food. I hope Allah will forgive me for my sacrifice and will grant my family blessings for their fasting and prayers_ Borhan Uddin
We always wanted a daughter. But we have three sons. I often told my wife only fortunate have daughter. I am working as a rickshaw puller for more than thirty years. Most of my passengers were bad tempered. They always scolded me. One morning a father hired me to take his daughter to the college. He requested me to be careful in the road. He told his daughter to hold the rickshaw tightly. Before we left he told me to go slowly so the girl may not get hurt. On our way after sometime I heard the girl was crying insanely. I tried to look back and wanted to ask her if everything was okay. She scolded me and warned me not to look back. After a while she asked me to stop and started calling someone by her phone. She was screaming and crying all the time.
I understood she supposed to escape from home with a boy. He did not show up. Suddenly she jumped from the rickshaw, left the money in the seat and quickly went to the train line. I was about to leave, felt sorry for the father and thought it may be good not to have a daughter. But I was not able to paddle further; I heard her father was requesting me to be careful. I parked my vehicle and ran for the girl. She was in the rail line, moving like a sick person to harm herself. I went near to her and requested her to go back with me. She yelled at me, called me uneducated stupid, in between she kept crying insanely. I was afraid to leave her in that empty place. I let her cry, as much as she wanted. Almost three hours we were there and rain was about to come. Before the rain starts she got up and asked me to bring the rickshaw. We did not talk about anything. In the rain I paddled quickly. I dropped her near her house. Before I left she stopped me and said, ‘Uncle, you should never come at my place again, never tell anyone you know me.’ I lowered my head and returned to home. That day I did not talk to anyone, I did not eat anything. I told myself it was better not to have a daughter. After more than eight years, very recently I had an accident. I was kind of senseless. Public took me to the hospital;. When I got back my sense I saw the girl was working near me, she asked me how I was feeling, why I never went to meet her. It was hard for me to recognize the girl in white dress, in spectacle and stethoscope. My treatment went well. I was taken to a big doctor. I was listening to her telling him, ‘Sir, he is my father’. The old doctor told her something in English. Then she touched my injured hand and replied him, ‘If this father did not support me in the past, I won’t be able to become a doctor’. I was lying in a narrow bed and tightly shut my eyes. I cannot tell anyone how I felt. This rickshaw puller has a daughter, a doctor daughter. – Bablu Shekh (55)
Papiya asked me to leave before she become weak to leave me. She told me to go somewhere, where she will never be able to come, or find me again. None of us cried. We knew that was the last time we were seeing each other. I moved from my neighbour’s village silently. I walked very slowly to remember everything of my life. I and Papiya used to go to school together. The field I was passing was the place where one day I fainted after seeing a snake. Papiya was always brave, she took that snake in a stick and throw into the water. I laughed a lot by thinking about all those stupid things. Both of us are very poor. Many days, our families are unable to eat anything other than rice. During flood we starved countless days. And then Papiya was chosen by a rich family, she will be able to take care her siblings and sick mother after her marriage. I wanted to be selfish, I wanted to tell her to come with me and fly somewhere. But then I could not. I wanted to see her happy even at the cost of leaving me. When I explained her how much I wanted her happiness, she did not respond. She only asked me, ‘is that the suffering of food is greater than suffering of love?’ I was silent and when I saw tears in her eyes, for the first and last time, I lovingly touched her cheeks. It’s been six months, I am in the city, riding rickshaw and sleeping here and there. Papiya is married and gone far. In this life, I will never be able to love someone as like I loved her. When we were giving SSC exam she gave me an amulet so I never feel fear. This is the only thing I tied in my hand and carry all the time. We promised that we will never meet each other again, we will never talk. Half of the year has gone. She will never know that in my mind every second I am talking to her. I talk to her, question her, laugh and cry with her. It’s hard to stop this, it’s hard to forget. – Rafiq (19)
If I had not started pulling a rickshaw in 2014 for the first time in my life, my education would have stopped at that point. I started driving a rickshaw when I was in class eight. Now I am doing a diploma on Textile Engineering of Garment designing in Dinajpur.
This time I came for ten days to drive a Rickshaw during Eid festival time. During this Eid festival people pay a little more. After earning 10 thousand taka in 10 days I will be going back and continuing my education. I need 6000 taka for each semester and 4000 taka for other expenses for my education. My institution gave me 60% waiver when they came to know that I am driving a rickshaw to support my education.
I am the only one from my entire village who came to Dhaka to drive a Rickshaw to pay for education. In the beginning my friends were laughing at me all the time, but I made them understand how important my education is and after my graduation I want to be a textile engineer. My friends are so proud of me nowadays and two of them want to follow my path to continue their education.
My mother worries about me a lot, after I came to this big city. My mother calls me several times a day and keeps asking me what I eat, what I am doing, which makes me so weak and fragile. I sometimes feel like going back home for my mother. That is the reason most of the time I keep my mobile phone switched off so she can’t call me and I can be stronger and continue the rest of the days.
Yesterday was Eid day and I worked until late at night, I missed my parents so much. This is the first time I passed my Eid without my mother. This the first time I could not touch my mother’s feet and get blessings from her after returning from prayers._ Akheruzzaman 18
My mother always hid something from me. I also tried to find out what she was hiding from me. In village when we went to any function, people pointed at me and talked to each other by saying how unfortunate boy I was. When I told that to my mother, she cried nervously and asked me what I came to know. I said, ‘nothing’, then she hugged me and asked me never to believe anyone. Whenever she spoke those things I felt very afraid and assured her I will never believe anyone. One day I heard my father fighting with my mother for spending money on me. He blamed her for being a bad woman, blamed for caring for a child whose mother left him. That day I came to know, I was three months old when my biological mother left me. My adopted mother brought me at home without any ones support. When my mother knew that I heard everything, she cried a lot, she took me on her arms and told me that she was my mother, asked me not to believe anyone. I was ten years old, only understood I was the problem for my mother; Only understood everyone believed I was an unfortunate boy. After some days of that incident I flew from my village.
When I arrived to the city, I was just ten. The place, it’s people and my life was strange to me. When I was crying by sitting alone in the bridge, Falan, Sumon , Jewel called me and let me to sleep with them. During first night I cried a lot, no one stopped me and some cried with me too. I did not cry for the mother who left me, I cried for my mother whom I missed every minute, even missing now at this moment. I cannot forget her, she is always here, in my heart. Every year I go to visit her. No one else likes to see me except her. When I enter in the house Ammu holds me like I am a little baby. I feel awkward and tell her not to love me this much. Last time she cried a lot, told me how much she prays so I can find happiness and love. I told her I have found enough love. I have friends who have no one just like me. We earn and spend together; we fight during day and sleep on each other’s hand at night. I have my own family now, a different family, where we do not have to tell anyone who is our parents or where do we belong. We just have us and enough love. – Raju (17)
I don’t know when the last time I took any rest or ate well at dinner. I work whole the day. This work is keeping my mother and my family alive. My mother is suffering from a stomach disease for which I am providing her treatment by sending money every week. Along with my mother and father I have to take care of all of our 6-member family.
In Dhaka City the dogs are more valuable than a rikshaw puller. People even behave nicely with dogs but not with rikshaw pullers. No oneknows why we come here leaving our loved ones in order to care for them and nor that we have to pull the rikshaw like a horse that is racing the whole the day!
I don’t like this job at all, I feel very scared pulling a rikshaw on this busy road. I don’t feel worried for my own life but for our six lives all together depending on me. Without me there is no one to feed them even once. If anything would happen to me or if I would die, they all would have to die without me working. So I don’t have any other option.
I left my wife, Rotna and my twin sons, Roton and Ridoy at our village. Sometimes I just want to see them and hold my sons’ faces. But I can only go to visit them once every six months. I promised my sons that I will bring two new school bags for them. They are waiting for me desperately as I am also waiting to hold them against my chest_ Rubel 29
I used to call our madam ‘Maa’. She is very generous to me and loves me like her daughter and for that I got the chance to repay the money and leave here. She allowed me to go back to my former life. Last year, with thousands of dreams, I went back to my village to my parents’ home, but nobody accepted me; neither my parents, nor my family members, nor the villagers. They didn’t allow me into my own home nor into the village because they think I am a dirty thing now, they said, “even we don’t eat that food when it falls down to the ground.” Some people were saying, “we never take back the dirt from our dustbin!” I cried the whole day and night till the next morning sitting beside my home, but no one cared and they were looking at me with hatred. But you know, when I saw my husband remarried and living in the same village, I came back to my ‘maa and my Hell.
At least this Hell allows me to live: to survive, to eat, to have space where I can sleep at night. Here I don’t need to see that cruel hatred for me in the eyes of my loved one_ Nilima
I never wanted to be a mother but when I realized that I was pregnant, my mind changed tremendously; I didn’t want to kill my child. Everyone told me to get an abortion but I could not do it. Our madam pressured me for an abortion but I was protecting my baby with all the energy I had. Madam called the Babu, who used to come to me the most and who had once promised me that he would marry me! She told him that this might be his child and that I could blackmail him anytime! Babu beat me ruthlessly and tried to force me (to abort from his beating OR to have an abortion) but I convinced him to stop by embracing his feet and begging him for the life of my child. I signed a contract and assured him that I will never want anyone’s name for my child.
Becoming a mother is not an easy task in these brothels. Lots of women have died because of improper treatment. I had to battle a lot every day with pregnancy sickness and at the same time, I had to attend to my target customers. Some people are very ruthless and ill minded; they like pregnant women for their own indulgence and entertainment. I prayed to God for a baby boy during the whole period of my pregnancy but it’s a girl again in our family. God didn’t listen to me. Everyone is telling me this will happen again. But I am determined to get her out from this Hell. After all of this, I am not deterred from my goal; I will break this woeful chain. If a mother wants a good life for her child, nothing can stop her_ shopna
I wait hours for my clients and during these hours I have nowhere to sit. I need to stand for hours and do bodily movements and use vulgar slang in order to get a client. I look so skinny so last month my madam started giving me some tablets that make me look fat and sexy. Men choose young and healthy workers because they complain that old workers are depressing. Getting a client is also like winning a battle because I have to compete with other workers and reach my target: ‘8 clients per night’. But when I get a client it is a mixed feeling as if I have won the battle but lost at the same time. I make my living and buy my food by selling my body and dignity.
Because I have to stand the whole time, for hours my leg hurts badly when I go to sleep. We can’t take an extra minute for eating, bathing or even using the toilet. If you are late for an extra minute you will get some slaps for a bonus. We can only get some time for sitting when we put our makeup on. It feels exhausting after finishing my target every night. I get such a small portion of food that even after finishing my full meal, I feel hungry all night. I never have seen a family in my life. I wish someone would marry me so that I could have a family. – Maya
I came here because I am a misfortunate woman; if it was not my bad luck then how can I lose both of my parents in a rail station? There was one porter who found me and he helped me to search for my parents the whole day and then waited til dusk. But I found no one; I never found them again just like I never find my luck. I lived for the next few days with the porter family who found me but his wife never liked me. She started fighting with him about me every single day. The last evening in that home she handed me over to her brother and he brought me here. It all happened like the worst possible dream I was having and it was happening in my life.
The first day, I did not allow my client to open my dress. He got so angry and tried so hard that he tore apart all my clothes but he could not manage me. After that incident my madam beats me miserably and for the next three days she forced me to sleep naked and locked me without food in a room. On day four I got my food and a new client but I didn’t get my clothes back for several days. After that day I accepted my fate. I accepted men in my room and in my life. But I could not accept men in my soul. Maybe that’s why I feel like I’m being raped every night several times. It feels I can no longer live this life for one more day and be raped by a stranger in exchange for money and a living.
Every single day I am passing in this dark hell only with the help of the cheapest drugs provided by our madam. Now I don’t wash myself anymore because no one is here to tell me this will never happen again. I don’t cry because no one will tell me to stop crying and hold me to her chest tightly. Now I am learning to die every day_ Ovagi (unlucky)